NORMAL, Ill. (WFIE) -Sam Cunliffe and John Hall finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively, to lead the University of Evansville men’s basketball team in a 77-66 loss to Illinois State on Wednesday evening inside Redbird Arena.
Cunliffe hit six field goals and three triples on his way to the 15-point effort. He set his season mark with nine rebounds. Hall had his top game since December 7 against Miami Ohio – tallying 13. He was 5-for-8 from the floor and hit three triples of his own. K.J. Riley finished the evening with ten points.
“It was a game of runs. I thought our execution at times was good, especially with the limited amount of time we have spent together,” UE head coach Todd Lickliter said. “They (ISU) hit two 3’s and it changed so fast. Our guys have played some really good basketball but we have struggled with our consistency and that is where we will work to help them. Our guys have continued to play with effort and I am proud of how hard they have worked.”
Fresh off of a career-high of 12 points on Sunday at Valparaiso, sophomore Jawaun Newton converted a 4-point play in the opening possession before Sam Cunliffe added a triple to give the Aces (9-13, 0-9 MVC) a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game. Illinois State (7-14, 2-7 MVC) rebounded with three triples but another trey courtesy of John Hall saw the UE lead stand at 10-9 at the 15-minute mark.
Illinois State grabbed its first lead of the night a minute later at 11-10 and would go up by as many as four in the opening 20 minutes. As the midway point of the first half approached, Noah Frederking knocked down his first long ball before an and-one from Shamar Givance tied the score at 19-19 with 9:38 on the clock before an Evan Kuhlman bucket on the ensuing possession put the Aces back in front.
With the score knotted at 24-24 two minutes later, the Aces had their top stretch of the half, going on a 9-1 run to open up their largest lead at 33-25. Consecutive three’s by John Hall anchored the run before Cunliffe knocked down his second outside shot. Over the final 3:34 of the half, Illinois State rallied back with an 11-4 run to cut the Evansville lead to 37-36 at the break. Hall led the Aces with 11 first-half points.
The opening possession of the second half saw the Redbirds knocked down their ninth 3-pointer of the game as they recorded the first five points of the half to retake a 41-37 lead. UE never relented and fought back with another triple from Cunliffe and a dunk by Hall to take a 46-45 edge at the 14:01 mark. K.J. Riley added a pair of baskets to help Evansville go back in front at 51-47.
ISU responded with a 10-0 stretch while keeping the Aces scoreless for a 3-minute stretch. A timely three by Frederking got the Aces back on the board to make it a one-possession game - 57-54. The Redbirds fought right back to take their largest lead at 64-56 inside of eight minutes left. It was UE’s senior righting the ship as his old fashioned 3-point play cut the deficit to five.
Another 3-pointer by Illinois State made it a double figure game and they would add to it, going up by 18 points in the final moments while holding the Aces scoreless for a stretch of six minutes before finishing with a 77-66 win. Leading the Redbirds was Jaycee Hillsman, who posted 20 points. Keith Fisher III finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds.
Evansville finished with the shooting edge at 47.2% while holding ISU to 46.7%. In three games under Coach Lickliter, the UE offense has improved each time out while showing improvement on the glass with each team finishing the evening with 31 rebounds.
An Orange Out is on tap Saturday when UE welcomes UNI to the Ford Center for a 1 p.m. game. A 2 for 1 premium ticket special for the game runs through the end of the workday on Friday (5 p.m.) at the Carson Center Ticket Office.
Courtesy: UE Athletics